Two COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, one antibody treatment put on hold cause concern for future of fight against virus

BOSTON — As two COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials and an antibody treatment experiment have been put on hold, there is concern for people’s hope for the ongoing efforts to fight the virus.

Anxieties can run high when the news is flooded with reports of clinical trial participants falling ill and less than ideal setbacks in what seems to be our only hope in ending the pandemic.

Boston 25 News spoke with Dr. Robert Finberg, the chair of the Department of Medicine at UMass Memorial in Worcester about the pause in the vaccine clinical trials and the antibody treatment.

“I think the companies are being very careful. They want to make sure the vaccine is safe,” said Finberg.

Finberg is also participating in one of the COVID-19 vaccine trials.

“Many clinical trials are paused,” said Finberg.

On Monday, Johnson and Johnson announced it was pausing its coronavirus vaccine trial due to a unexplained illness that made one participant fall sick.

Then on Tuesday, Eli Lilly announced it is pausing its ongoing antibody treatment trial for safety reasons. While the company didn’t say what happened, Finberg says this isn’t cause for concern. it’s common.

“They’re researching and people should be aware that there potentially are side effects," said Finberg. “The goal here is when we introduce this to the population at large, there won’t be serious side effects."

Prior to this, Cambridge-based Moderna slowed its COVID-19 vaccine trial, but is now continuing moving forward again.

“The vaccine pause can trigger or have a triggered a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness because it’s out of their control,” said Dr. Karen Ruskin, a psychotherapist.

Ruskin said hearing about the vaccine trials being put on hold is having a side effect on people.

“Keep yourself healthy mentally, emotionally, physically, those are things in your control,” said Ruskin.

According to Ruskin, it’s all about the way we react to the news.

“Those who are feeling hopeless and helpless, it literally affects physiological cortisol levels, which increases anxiety, and can respond in physical unwellness,” said Ruskin.

Ruskin says it’s important to remember we are all in this together and we have control over our feelings.

Finberg says the way to move forward is for people to keep participating in the studies and during the trial period, if the volunteer feels like something is off, they need to communicate it to their doctors immediately.

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